Review: FIAT 500C (2009)
Characterful and charismatic. Funky retro look inside and out. Fun TwinAir engine.
Cramped inside for 6 footers. Not much room in the back. TwinAir struggles to match official economy. Rear visibility poor with the roof retracted.
Recently Added To This Review
Report of actuator trouble with recently purchased FIAT 500C 1.2 at 20,000 miles. Keeps flashing check transmission warning light and message and fails to change up the gears repeatedly without resorting... Read more
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Broken rear window of Abarth 500C resulted in insurance bill of £2,000 for entire new roof, plus fitting, plus VAT. Read more
FIAT 500C (2009): At A Glance
- New prices start from £15,335, brokers can source from £11,498
- Contract hire deals from £137.65 per month
- Insurance Groups are between 9–18
- On average it achieves 77% of the official MPG figure
The Fiat 500C is exactly what you expect it to be – it’s a Fiat 500 with a convertible roof. That means it packs in all the charisma of the regular 500 hatchback but with the added bonus of top-down motoring in the summer, without too much impact on practicality.
The roof mechanism is simple enough. It folds electronically and can be stopped wherever you like, so you can have a little bit of a breeze or the proper experience with it retracted fully. Obviously this isn’t a true cabriolet, but on the go with the roof back and the windows down you get almost the same experience, though rearward visibility is obscured.
The roof can be operated on the go at up to 37mph, which is great around town. It does mean that you can’t fold it up and down on national speed limit roads, though – something that you can do with a Citroen DS3 Cabrio. On that car the roof can be folded at up to 70mph.
The engine range is similar to that for the hard top, with an entry-level 1.2-litre petrol, a fun little 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol with 85PS or 105PS power outputs and a 1.3-litre MultiJet diesel. The TwinAir suits the 500C perfectly thanks to its characterful exhaust note and sprightly performance, though its real world economy doesn’t match official figures.
If you like the Fiat 500 and want to enjoy soft-top motoring it’s easy to recommend the 500C. The Citroen DS3 Cabriolet is more accomplished as a driver’s car and feels more substantial, but it costs more than the 500C and doesn’t quite have the same charm. For many, charm will be the deciding factor and the Fiat 500C has it in abundance.
What does a FIAT 500C (2009) cost?
FIAT 500C (2009): What's It Like Inside?
- Boot space is 182–520 litres
Besides the folding roof, the 500C is just like the hatchback inside with a cute, retro design. There are no fancy soft-touch materials, but the car doesn’t really feel any worse for it thanks to the handsome body-coloured dashboard cover. There are problems, though – the radio unit and buttons feel out of date compared to more recent cars and there isn’t a lot of space.
Even the front seats feel tight for taller people, while the back row isn’t really suited to carrying adults except on very short trips. Despite having a folding roof the boot space isn’t too different from the hatchback, though it is hardly spacious at 182 litres. Thankfully access is reasonable – certainly compared to the letterbox style opening on a DS3 Cabrio – though if you’re carrying anything large you’ll need to fold the rear seats.
From 2014 the 500C is available with a new digital instrument display which, despite being a modern touch, fits with the retro design. It’s much clearer and easier to read than the traditional analogue display fitted to all early 500 models, which has a combined rev counter and speedo.
The new display is a nice high-tech touch – and it’s about the only one. Standard equipment feels distinctly out of date, with no standard fit aux and USB connectivity unless you choose a trim level with Blue&Me, which also adds Bluetooth. The 500C also misses out on cruise control, which is increasingly common on other small cars.
On the other hand there are plenty of customisation options for the 500C, including a broad range of colours and wheel designs, plus various details and embellishments like a chrome bonnet strip and various graphics packs. These add expense, but generally the options aren’t too pricey.
Pop models come with 14-inch steel wheels, air conditioning, electric windows, CD player and radio, remote central locking, stop start, hill-hold assist and tyre pressure monitoring.
Pop Star trim adds 15-inch alloy wheels, 50/50 split fold rear seats, body-coloured door mirrors.
Lounge trim adds 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, USB and AUX-in, chrome styling kit, fog lights, leather steering wheel with audio controls, rear parking sensors and automatic climate control.
S trim adds 7-inch TFT instrument cluster, dark tinted windows, sports kit,
Cult is the top trim and has unique Cult trim details.
Child seats that fit a FIAT 500C (2009)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the FIAT 500C (2009) like to drive?
- Engines range from 0.9 TwinAir 85 Dualogic to 1.4 Dualogic
- Readers report Real MPG to be between 32–61 mpg
Fiat offers the 500C with a choice 1.2-litre or 0.9-litre petrol engines or a 1.3-litre diesel. The 0.9-litre TwinAir sounds great and offers enjoyable performance, especially in 105PS form, but it tends to fall short of official economy figures in real world driving. Even so, it’s still the pick of the engine range and it has the added benefit of sub-100g/km emissions, so is free to tax.
If economy is your primary concern the proven 1.3-litre diesel will do the job fine though, with its official figure of 76.3mpg and emissions of 97g/km. It isn’t as enjoyable and fizzy as the TwinAir though, nor is the ageing 1.2-litre petrol. This is neither particularly powerful nor very frugal, so is best avoided unless you’re on a tight budget.
Those who need an auto can choose between the 0.9-litre and 1.2-litre petrol with Duologic transmission. This is an automated manual rather than a proper automatic, so is best avoided unless you really need it. It was also fitted to the 1.4-litre petrol, which was discontinued in 2011.
On the road, the 500C drives like its hard top stablemate, which is no surprise at all. It’s not the sharpest handling car on sale, but it has light steering and is easy to drive. It’s ideal for shorter drivers thanks to the high mounted gear lever and high seats. On the road it is fairly composed on most roads but at high speeds on rougher surfaces the ride gets unsettled.
It’s not the most comfortable car for long distance driving – the fabric roof isn’t as quiet as a hard top, and the foot well is cramped. There is nowhere to rest your left foot when cruising and the pedals are close together, so those with wide feet will have to be careful until they are used to the car.
It doesn’t take long to get used to the quirks of the car though. After that it is easy to live with, particularly in town where compact dimensions, light controls and a tight turning circle make stop start traffic and tight parking spaces very easy to deal with.
|0.9 TwinAir 105||67 mpg||10.0 s||99 g/km|
|0.9 TwinAir 85||57–74 mpg||11.0 s||90–106 g/km|
|0.9 TwinAir 85 Dualogic||71–74 mpg||11.0 s||88–92 g/km|
|1.2||53–66 mpg||12.9 s||99–126 g/km|
|1.2 Dualogic||52–63 mpg||12.9–13.0 s||105–122 g/km|
|1.3 MultiJet 75||67 mpg||12.5 s||110 g/km|
|1.3 MultiJet 95||76–83 mpg||10.7 s||89–97 g/km|
|1.4||49 mpg||10.5 s||135 g/km|
|1.4 Dualogic||50 mpg||10.5 s||130 g/km|
Real MPG average for a FIAT 500C (2009)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
What have we been asked about the FIAT 500C (2009)?
Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.
I bought a Fiat 500C for £9995 in April and now they'll only give me £7000 to trade it in - what do I do?
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